Ezra 4:4–5, 24–5:5; 6:8, 13–16comment (0)
December 7, 2006
By John A. Nixon
Related Scripture: Ezra 4:4–5, 24–5:5; 6:8, 13–16
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Working with Confidence in God
Ezra 4:4–5, 24–5:5; 6:8, 13–16
At the beginning of Chapter 3, we read that the people rebuilt the altar and worshiped God despite their fear of the people of the land (3:3). They also rebuilt the temple’s foundation and worshiped God with joy and sorrow (3:8–13).
Accordingly we see the faith of the people expressed through their worship and obedience to God. The situation, however, changes in Chapter 4.
Discouraged by Opposition (4:4–5)
The local inhabitants of the land ask to help rebuild the temple. Zerubbabel and those working on the temple, however, refuse to let them participate. Consequently the people of the land act to discourage the builders by making them afraid to work. They also “bribed officials [to act] against them to frustrate their plans” to rebuild the temple. The contrast with Chapter 3 is striking.
Before God’s people worked and worshiped despite their fear; this time, they become discouraged and afraid to build. The eagerness, faith and obedience seen in Chapters 1–3 disappear from the picture, and the temple reconstruction stops for almost two decades.
At this point, the writer of Ezra emphasizes the opposition between the people and the inhabitants of the land. Ezra 4:6–23 points to two later instances of opposition against rebuilding.
The first happened during the reign of Xerxes (v. 6; he reigned 486–465 B.C.) and the second during the reign of Artaxerxes (4:7–23; he reigned 465–425 B.C.). Again, by including examples from later dates, the writer emphasizes the ongoing opposition between the people and the inhabitants of the land.
Encouraged by God’s Word (4:24–5:5)
Ezra 4:24 points us back to 4:5, indicating that after almost two decades, the people once again begin to rebuild the temple. Just as we saw in Chapters 1–3, the writer again emphasizes God’s faithfulness to His people and His promises.
After the long delay, God sends His prophets Haggai and Zechariah (5:1–2), who embolden His people. Whereas they had been discouraged and troubled by the people of the land, now they are encouraged by God’s prophets. Moreover they find success as they trust God’s word given through the prophets.
Finally the writer is clear that their success is because of God’s provision (5:5; 6:14, 22).
Rejoice in God’s Provision (6:8, 13–16)
Not only does God begin to work through His prophets but again we see God working through the Persian king. In response to the governor’s letter (5:6–17), King Darius confirms that Cyrus had decreed God’s people should rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (6:1–12). Darius not only upholds the decree but he also pays for the expenses of the building from his own treasury (6:8, 22). With this verse, the writer connects what God is doing through Darius with God’s word given through the prophets (5:1).
Haggai had spoken of the “treasures” of the nations contributing to the building of God’s temple (Hag. 2:7).
Through this connection, the writer emphasizes God’s faithfulness and provision.
Finally the temple is completed “in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (6:15). Once again, the writer stresses that God worked through “Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia” (6:14; cf. 6:22). Although Artaxerxes reigned in an earlier period, the writer wants readers to see that God used all three Persian kings to accomplish His purposes.
In response to God’s work, the people worship with joy and obedience to God’s word as they dedicate the temple and the priesthood (6:16–18). Their obedience continues throughout that same year as they also celebrate the Passover with joy (6:19–22).